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WILL BLENDED/DISTANCE LEARNING OR iAcademy’s “GOAL” BE THE NEW NORMAL IN EDUCATION?

GETTING READY FOR SCHOOL YEAR 2020-2021

When I was a student, the start of the school year was a lot like Christmas for me and my siblings (minus the toys and the noche Buena), because it was the only other time when we had reason to buy new shoes, uniforms, bags (Khumbmela!), and lots of school supplies. 

Those were simpler times. We were happy with Cattleya or Corona notebooks and Pilot pens, and if you had a Trapper Keeper, one of those refillable binder notebooks, or were using Staedtler/Faber Castell pencils instead of Mongol #2 you were already the envy of your classmates. 

Now, in addition to the skyrocketing tuition fees and those expensive school supplies, students also “need” a smartphone, tablet or laptop, and prepaid cards for their call and data loads—on top of their daily allowances.

So I could just imagine how hard it must be for parents to send a child, let alone several kids to school—something that’s about to become even more complicated and problematic because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This article also appeared on the June 27, 2020 edition of Technivore on the Digital Life section of Business Mirror

As President Rodrigo Duterte himself said he won’t be allowing students to go back to school until its safe or a vaccine made available, the Department of Education has developed the Basic Education -Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) and schools are directed to implement blended/distance learning modalities where lessons will be delivered to the students in their homes.

In the blended/distance learning modalities, DepEd will utilize online learning resources such as its learning portal called “DepEd Commons.” The DepEd said that it will also continue to pursue various distance learning delivery modalities, one of which is online learning. 

For those without internet connectivity or gadgets at home, the DepEd said preparations are also currently underway to implement home-based learning through TV, radio, online, and printed modules.  The agency is tapping private partners and local government units to assist them in this challenging implementation of School Year 2020-2021.

As of the third week of June, the total number of enrollees has reached 12,768,466 nationwide (12,319,956 in public schools and 439,520 for private schools) for Kindergarten to Grade 12 in both formal and informal education systems. 

Teachers nationwide on the other hand are getting free online trainings provided by Gabay Guro, PLDT’s flagship educational program through its ‘Learning Never Stops’ campaign. As of May 30, 2020, Gabay Guro has led 13 e-learning sessions on Facebook with over 300,000 views to date. 

The online training videos uploaded on the Gabay Guro Facebook Page are all for free. These videos are available for replay which allows teachers to go learn at their own pace.

Topics of the live training and recorded webcasts include life learnings from the quarantine, virtual teaching 101, flipping the classroom, improving students’ reading and comprehension, as well as teachers’ mindset improvement in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

IACADEMY SETS G.O.A.L. 

Unlike many schools who are just trying to attempt distance learning for the first time, Makati-based school iACADEMY has already been implementing technology-enabled learning by utilizing various online platforms and tools like NEO and Google Classroom to deliver lessons even before the pandemic began. 

With the current health crisis and government pronouncements prohibiting conduct of face-to-face classes, iACADEMY has decided to roll out its new approach called GOAL or Guided Online Autonomous Learning.

iACADEMY has ramped up its efforts in fully implementing flexible remote learning for its students to ease its transition to what might become the new normal for educational institutions.

Earlier this month, the school gathered hundreds of parents for a webinar wherein school academic officials and parents had a meaningful discussion about flexible remote learning and the preparations the school has done to ensure the continuous and dynamic delivery of education for its students.

Cecilia Sy, iACADEMY’s Vice President for Academic Affairs said “when the pandemic broke, all schools and universities were forced to expedite the use of technology to deliver instruction to ensure that learning is not disrupted.  For us, we saw this challenge as an opportunity to step up our game. iACADEMY will implement an online distance learning program called GOAL or Guided Online Autonomous Learning. GOAL is our online distance education program designed to provide a flexible, relevant, balanced, and collaborative learning experience to our students.

Sy emphasized that the program will be learner-centered and faculty-directed. It is anchored on a holistic and adaptive approach to teaching and learning.

She also notes that it is learner-centered because it factors in the learning capacity of the students and provides learning activities that are engaging, relevant and outcome-based. The focus is to equip students with the essential knowledge, values and skills to prepare them for future challenges in their careers. It’s also faculty-directed because students are still guided, monitored and mentored by our professors in spite of the absence of a face-to-face interaction. 

A lot of buzz words have come up ever since schools started adopting alternative modes of learning. Among these terms include online learning, blended learning, modular, flexible remote learning and distance learning. 

The webinar likewise gave the school administrators a chance to further explain what each term means.

Flexible learning is a multi-faceted approach to learning where students are given options on how, what, when and where they learn. It is the overarching drive, philosophy or approach behind the other methods of delivering instruction. It is student-centered because it encourages and empowers students to be autonomous or independent which is a key attribute that enables them to manage the challenges in the 21st century.  It combines and expands familiar approaches to teaching and learning. Face-to-face classes, blended learning and distance learning are part and parcel of flexible learning.

Flexible learning draws on different approaches and methods of delivering instruction that is most suitable to the circumstances and needs of the learners.

Blended Learning meanwhile, refers to delivering the lessons through face-to-face and online classes. This means some lessons are taught in a traditional classroom set-up and others are taught online. 

Distance learning, on the other hand, pertains to delivering instruction remotely. The key elements in distance learning are time and space. In this set-up, students are not in the same physical room with their teachers and classmates while learning. 

Learning sessions will be conducted either synchronously and asynchronously.

Synchronous learning is conducting learning sessions where students and professors interact and collaborate in real time. This can be done either through face-to-face classes or through remote or distance learning enabled by technology. This set-up allows immediate feedback because it facilitates the exchange of ideas and information in real time. 

In asynchronous learning, professors and students collaborate but not in real time. The professors provide offline learning materials or resources that students study or work on in their own time. This includes tutorial videos, recorded lectures and demonstrations, modules, learning guides and other reading materials. Students and professors communicate through discussion boards, emails, or instant messaging. These tools are used for consultation and feedback. 

Asynchronous learning has its benefits because in this format, students develop self-discipline and a sense of ownership of their learning because they are given some autonomy on how to pace themselves. It allows them to spend more time on challenging lessons and work toward mastery. Students can still collaborate with their teachers and classmates through chat boxes and discussion boards. 

For Jake Aragon, iACADEMY’s Senior High School Principal, parents and students alike can still be assured that the delivery of quality education is possible even through flexible remote learning. 

“Quality education will still be achieved through GOAL because our teachers will continue to share their expertise through online channels,” said Aragon.

He added that instructors and professors can effectively assess a student’s performance in a flexible learning set-up through the careful use of grading criteria and rubrics that measure learning. “Also, we will allow students to create projects anchored on their voice and choice. There will be a focus on learning styles,” Aragon shared.

“The administration of exams will also be done online; in addition, projects that will be required as final assessments will be designed according to what is practical and meaningful for students,” he said.

With regard to the subjects with lessons that were usually done in labs, iACADEMY ensures that these can be delivered effectively using the distance learning approach.

“We revisited the curriculum and identified subjects that can be delivered online without watering down its content. There are lab subjects that require only a regular desktop or laptop and reliable internet connection to learn the course. The students can learn the concepts and skills through live demonstrations or tutorial videos,” Sy said. 

Overall, the school’s academic officials emphasized that the new learning arrangement for students follows an outcome-based approach wherein assessments or projects are geared towards evaluating what the students know and can do. The activities and assessments are designed for students to demonstrate and apply the skills or competencies they learned.

As the school fully implements the flexible remote learning or its Guided Online Autonomous Learning (GOAL) approach, its officials are hoping to get the support of its students’ parents by collaborating and keeping the latter’s communication lines open for news, feedback, and developments. 

“We would like to seek the continued support and cooperation of our parents in the implementation of GOAL by creating a study space at home for their children to do their school work and by encouraging them to follow a regular study schedule to help them complete the learning tasks,” Sy said.

“The school and parents can work together by always keeping our communication channels open and providing the necessary environment at home for students to make the most out of online learning,” Aragon added.

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